The Largeness of Science

Today was a rare occasion when I sat down, not with Science or Nature, but rather with Discover and the Scientific American. What struck me was the enormity of the modern science enterprise. I like to think that sitting in the director’s chair at an institute for advanced study, I’d have a pretty good feel for at least the feature landscape of science, but while this may be true for the intersection of neurobiology, cognitive psychology and computer science, I’m astounded by what’s going on entirely outside that rather broad purview–in fields such ranging from cosmology down to microbiology.

So my question is: how does a person deeply interested in science (writ large) keep up? This is a challenge not only for folks like myself, but true as well for the bench-top principle investigator. A few years ago, our university took out a site subscription to the Faculty of 1000–which amounts to a sort of expert crowdsourcing of the literature. I valued that a great deal. It seems to be headed in the right direction.

I also acknowledge that Wikipedia (at least in my own narrow expertise of molecular neuroscience) is usually pretty good as far as getting the facts right. Which leaves me hopeful that it might be as good in other fields for which I’m not qualified to make that judgment.